Hundreds of HCCC who once barely knew English now have 2-year college degrees

A few years ago, many of them barely knew a word of English. Now, they’re achieving two-year degrees and beyond. On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, Hudson County Community College honored graduates from the Classes of 2020-22 who began their academic journeys in the HCCC ESL Program.

HCCC is one of the most ethnically diverse higher education institutions in the United States, with students born in 119 countries who speak 29 languages. Many are recent arrivals to the United States coping with unfamiliar surroundings, cultural differences and a new language.

The college says its commitment to student success often begins by helping them overcome language challenges through the Academic English as a Second Language program.

The “ESL to Graduation: A Celebration” featured welcoming remarks by Jed Palmer, interim director of ESL and Academic Foundations English (AFE); and “Tales of Immigration: Past and Present” presented by Linda Joy Miller, associate professor, ESL.

HCCC 2005 graduate Bahmini Ketheesan, manager, SERV Finances and Accounts Group, Stevens Institute of Technology, spoke about “Student Success Stories: Past.”

Simone Ebeid, a member of the Class of 2021 who earned her associate degree in medical sciences, and Elie Natuwila, Class of 2022 received his associate in criminal justice, spoke on “Student Success Stories: Present.”

HCCC President Christopher Reber and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Yeurys Pujols offered congratulatory remarks to the graduates who are receiving degrees in business, computer science, criminal justice, culinary arts, digital arts, early childhood education, engineering, English, health services, hospitality management, human services, mathematics, medical assisting, medical coding, nursing, psychology, radiography, studio arts and several other disciplines.

“The Classes of 2020-22 include 497 students who came to the United States from all around the world and began their higher education journey in the HCCC ESL program,” Reber said. “Attendees hail from Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru and Senegal. We are enormously proud of them for the courage, determination and persistence they demonstrated in navigating the challenges of learning to read, write and speak a new language, and then continuing on to earn their associate degrees.”

The HCCC Academic ESL program provides students with the high-level English language skills needed to study at a United States college or university and to succeed and advance in careers.

Classes focus on academic essay writing, grammar, reading and speaking and listening skills. Overall, HCCC ESL students are from 45 different countries. Students enrolled in the Academic ESL program are eligible to apply for the Johanna Van Gandt (JVG) Scholarship for ESL Students that provides tuition support.

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